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England and right-backs. It’s a topic that has caused plenty of debate in recent years. And that debate has come to light again ahead of the country’s upcoming World Cup Qualifying matches.
The Three Lions face Albania at Wembley on Friday evening. They then travel to San Marino on Monday. The two games bring an end to the nation’s qualifying campaign. Gareth Southgate’s men sit top of Group I on 20 points. They are yet to lose, with six wins and two draws. But Poland and Albania are close by in second and third respectively.
Given that qualification is not yet secured, the England manager will definitely go for his strongest XI. And his most difficult decision undoubtedly lies in the right-back position.
It truly is an incredible list of potential right-backs. It includes Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Kieran Trippier, Ben Johnson, Max Aarons, Tino Livramento, Kyle Walker-Peters, Tariq Lamptey, and James Justin, among others.
But it is Kyle Walker, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James who are the three included in the latest squad. Given recent displays, it is the Chelsea man who looks set to be given a starting role.
— England (@England) November 11, 2021
James cannot be ignored for England starting role
The Chelsea defender has been in sensational form this season. And it has been at both ends of the pitch. James has been solid at the back, helping the Blues to the league’s best defensive record. They’ve conceded just four goals in 11 league matches.
And going forward, James is Chelsea’s joint top scorer this season. He has four goals, level with Romelu Lukaku and Kai Havertz. But his assists place him top of the goal involvement charts. He has four assists in all competitions, and so eight goal involvements. Mateo Kovacic is second with six (one goal, five assists).
James perhaps has the best chances of starting on Friday night. That is thanks to his fine balance between attack and defence. Despite being just 21 years old, he seems to be ahead of his nearest competitors in this regard.
Walker and Alexander-Arnold in close second
Southgate is a big admirer of Manchester City’s Walker. The defender can also play in a back three, should the manager opt for such a formation.
City have also been solid defensively in recent months. Pep Guardiola’s side have conceded just six league goals this season. Walker has missed just two of those matches. While he has scored just one goal and hasn’t provided any assists in all competitions, it could be his defensive ability that gains him a starting place under Southgate, a manager who prides himself on defensive rigidity.
On the contrary, Alexander-Arnold has been in fine form in the attacking third. But it is his lack of awareness at the back that could be his downfall. The Reds seemingly rely on Alisson and Virgil van Dijk too much for Jurgen Klopp’s liking.
The Liverpool right-back has one goal and seven assists in all competitions this season. And he has been a key element of his club’s success in the final third. Liverpool have already qualified for the Champions League group stages, while they currently occupy a spot in the Premier League top four.